Dealing with stress: good advice for truckies

From the series - I Got Bills to Pay
Stories from 55 years on the road from Alan Rutland

Don't blow a hose

If you are new to driving a semi trailer there are going to be a million things that are really going to annoy you and be very scary. Once you have been operating for 20 years or more you will realise that trucks are not so scary in fact once you have had one problem once the next time it happens you are ready for it. Unfortunately you can't fast track experience.

This is a story about a guy who gets a job with a major transport company. I don't want to name them but here is the story as I heard it.

A driver is given a task of taking a 25-ton load from Rocklea to Capalaba. He hooks up the trailer and takes off down Mt Gravatt Capalaba Rd.

At the intersection of Newman Rd he has to stop for a red light. This particular lane is only as wide as the truck and he is stopped at the front of the queue.

When the lights turn green he selects a gear, lets off the park brake and endeavours to take off.

Unable to move he finds that the brakes aren't released…… he tries again, park brake on, park brake off……still no luck.

While pondering his dilemma he hears the cars behind start tooting horns and looks back to find the traffic banked all the back to Garden City. Well he losses it!

He is so embarrassed and feels he MUST get out of there as quickly as possible! He selects lo-lo and try's to drag a fully loaded semi-trailer with brakes locked on, up the hill to clear the lights.

You can image how that saga ended, obviously he burns the clutch out!

It turns out that all this drama was actually caused because he didn't lock in the air hoses when he hooked up! The only time he had hooked up airlines previously someone had given him a hand and it looked like you just pushed them in!

So when he applied the brakes, full air pressure went through the system which caused one of the unlocked hoses to spit out the back, causing the brakes on the trailer to lock on.

Due to the damage this driver caused, the employing company not only sacked him but then charged him $3800 for the damaged clutch.

This case then went to court with the union challenging this decision, but ultimately the company still won. The Company involved now is making it a practice to explain to the workers that if they cause damage and it's deemed to be negligent, then they will have to pay for it. The argument is still going as to whether this practice is legal.
As bad as I feel for the driver who due to his inexperience made a very bad call, my opinion is this mistake was his to own therefore so should the expenses.

Some drivers get so embarrassed if people are looking at them that this embarrassment quickly evolves into stress and aggression. When stress checks in common sense seems to check out.

Slow down if you have a problem like this!

Get out of the truck, count to ten and try and engage the brain. Down worry so much about the traffic behind, if you break down, you break down its bound to happen to you some day. Didn't your old fella ever teach you that might is right?

Try to identify the problem, perhaps you could put out your tri-angles out and turn on the hazards. Now think about what just happened.

If the bloke had a few seconds to process the event It should have soon become clear that all he did was apply the brakes then let them off again…….. Ok so that's a clue -brakes!,

A reasonable man should now be thinking brakes are a problem so let's go and check the air supply to the trailer. There may be something blocking the line or an air leak of some description.

What you should do hear is as simple as removing the airlines inspect them and reconnecting again.

If this bloke had of done that he would have learn that one of the airlines was not locked in. Unhook then rehook - problem solved.

We attempted to verify this story but there were lots of documented issues and lots of different instances. We Googled court action TWU V different companies. Could not identify this particular action.

It doesn't matter wether the story is true or not fact remains the guy in the story did not deal well with a stressful driving situation.

Stress is unavoidable in this industry, so as truck drivers we need to develop thick skin but that doesn't mean we can't ask for help. When people are chronically stressed they often stop problem-solving. They may feel 'I have no choices', but they do, and just acknowledging this can be a big step forward.

Stop get out of the truck, count to ten, and think about what is happening. Call a friend, call the company and get some help.

Driving is as much a state of mind as anything else. If you can accept that there are limits to the amount of control you can exert as a driver it helps.

You can also reduce how stress effects you're driving the same way we reduce stress on other aspects of our life. Exercise, good diet, low or no alcohol and regular sleep will all contribute to an overall sense of health and well-being which will ensure more common sense can be applied the next time we drive into the unknown.

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